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Re: Iraq - 11 years on. By Omar Al-Taher

Sorry, Colin -I too must apologise for chiming in again- but I find most of
Omar Al-Taher's claims quite plausible. I comment your post, trying to
explain why. Best wishes,   Tim

----- Original Message -----
From: "Colin Rowat" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 2:56 PM
Subject: RE: Iraq - 11 years on. By Omar Al-Taher

> Hi again,
> With apologies for chiming in again, the piece did bother me because it
> contained handfuls of the stereotypical - and incorrect - claims about the
> sanctions.  While I sympathise entirely with the author's sentiments, I
> think that articles like this both make us look uninformed if we cite
> information gained in them, and give advocates of sanctions examples of
> intellectually careless we are.  These make our job harder.  I am
> particularly surprised by this article as it comes from Jordan: this is
> an article written about a subject completely unknown to the author, where
> repetition of casual statements might be more permitted.
> My concerns:
> > Over those eleven long years, over 600,000 Iraqi
> > children have died as a direct result of the sanctions.
> There's no evidence of this.  The best source that we have is Unicef's
> survey, which estimated an additional 500,000 child deaths.  It did not
> claim that they were the "direct result" of sanctions.  How could it?

[TPB]As I've said before on this list, if we're waiting for a UN agency to
admit that the UN-imposed sanctions are killing children, we'll all be dead
before causality is established. I take it that Mr Al-Taher has interpreted
the data. I would simply say that sanctions have killed hundreds of
thausands of children. His figure is 600,000. Maybe he is right and I am
wrong. I don't know. I would say he is more right than wrong. The UNICEF
data is worthless unless you interpret it, and he has interpreted it.

> No
> one, to my knowledge, has the ability at present to make statements about

> the extent to which the collapse of Iraq's electrical grid, its water
> treatment plants, or its health and education systems owe to the sanctions
> themselves, to the Gulf war or the ensuing civil war, to the incredibly
> expensive Iran war in the 1980s or to Iraqi government mismanagement.

[TPB] I'm afraid that I do make such statements, Colin! I believe Iraq has
some of the largest oil reserves in the world. Why is such a rich country
now in such a state? Sanctions destroyed what was left of the economy after
the Gulf War and prevented recovery. This was a deliberate, calculated
holding of the civilian population ransom to an acceptable political
settlement in Baghdad, one which still appears as out of reach as ever. They
are doing the same thing in Afghanistan right now, smashing the place up
until the right warlords are in power, albeit using bombs instead of
economic warfare.

> > three top UN officials, Dennis Halliday, Hans Von
> > Sponeck and Bolghardt
> These names should be spelled "Denis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck and
> Burghardt".
> > Almost everything is denied the people of Iraq, including food,
> > clothing and medicine.
> I don't know what this sentence means.  There are green lists of food and
> medicines that can enter Iraq without sanctions committee approval.  Yes,
> these are still more controlled than are similar imports into the UK or
> other countries as application forms need to be sent through the UN's
> of the Iraq Programme, but "denied" is far too strong a word to describe
> this.  By "denied" one could mean that there are Iraqis who do not have
> sufficient food, clothing and medicine: this is true too, but is also true
> in other countries - albeit often to a lesser extent.

[TPB] My understanding based on Voices' work is that if the economy is not
allowed to function normally then no amount of green lists of food and
medicine will improve the condition of millions of people. So we need to
allow outside investment in and return to Iraq its sovereignty over it's own
economy. Alexander Sternberg, who attacked anti-sanctions campaigners on
this list some time ago, would probably claim that Saddam would then use the
freed resources to attack the Kurds and Shiites. It's possible. If we want
to help these oppressed peoples, we should come to their aid if they are
attacked, rather than persist with sanctions, which are themselves
destroying people's lives.

> > As far back as 1994, reports out of Iraq,
> > compiled by Western agencies, spoke of widespread chronic
> > malnutrition and death among young children; an unprecedented
> > human rights disaster.
> Information from 1994 cannot be used if one wishes to condemn the current
> sanctions.  In 1994 there was no 'oil for food' programme, much less the
> 'expanded' one that now exists.

[TPB]Sanctions were imposed on the 2 August 1990, in response to the
invasion of Kuwait. If by sanctions we mean the transfer of Iraq's economic
sovereignty(control over investment, imports and exports, foreign exchange)
by the US and UK, then nothing has changed for 11 years. Oil for Food was
just a PR excercise. it just made the killing respectable. Until the US and
UK get the government they want in Iraq, Iraqi civilians will continue to
die. That's the intention, that's the result.

> > A quick glance at the list of items that Iraq is denied reveals
> > the absurdity and the ugly face of the much-celebrated "new world
> > order". The list includes: books, pencils, paper, soap, light
> > bulbs, clean water, anaesthetic, lifesaving drugs, X-ray machines
> > and films, heart and lungs machine, vaccines, firefighting
> > equipment, etc. The pretext is that such items have a potential
> > for military application.
> This paragraph seems to draw upon a list of supposed banned items that
> circulated many years ago.  That list, as we have often discussed in this
> forum, is mistaken.  Apart from military goods, which are subject to a
> blanket ban, there is no category of banned items, much less individual
> lists.  On pencils, see my posting last year
> ( to understand how this
> story developed.
> > When confronted with the fact that over 4,000 Iraqi children are
> > dying every month due to the embargo, Madeleine Albright, then US
> > secretary of state, retorted without a qualm: "Well, we think the
> > price is worth it."
> Albright was not presented with a 4,000 a die figure, but an estimate
> has since proved very inaccurate) that the total excess death count of
> children under the age of five was 567,000.

[TPB] I agree he could have got the details right, but the point is
substantially correct. She said, in effect that she could not care less how
many children she murders - revolting but honest.

 >In her response, she
> acknowledged that it was a difficult question; while I find her position
> abhorrent, this acknowledgement may count as a qualm.

[TPB]True. Even Hitler may have had qualms, but how relevant are they?

> > However, the pressing question remains: How many more Iraqis need
> > to perish before the American and the British peoples react and
> > put a stop to the atrocities committed in their name?
> This sentence, unfortunately, has nothing wrong with it.
> Best,
> Colin Rowat
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